Special Olympics

Local officers, students part of Windsor-Essex Polar Plunge



By Ron Giofu


The Ontario Law Enforcement Torch Run held its fifth annual “Polar Plunge” last Friday afternoon and it had some Amherstburg representation.

Four officers from the Windsor Police Service – Amherstburg Detachment, including Staff Sgt. Dave DeLuca, Const. Tim McInnis, Const. Fred Adair and Const. Ryan Pizzala, jumped into the cold pool outside of the St. Clair College Sportsplex. Also participating were General Amherst High School students Cassidy Atkinson, Kyra Buratto and Hannah Drouillard.

The WIndsor Police Service – Amherstburg Detachment had a team at the Polar Plunge at the St. Clair College Sportsplex Feb. 15.

“You can’t imagine how cold it was until you are in the water,” said DeLuca. “It was fun, though.”

The former Amherstburg Police Service were regular participants of the Polar Plunge and DeLuca indicated it will continue to be a tradition as the Windsor Police Service – Amherstburg Detachment.

“This will be an annual thing for us,” said DeLuca.

DeLuca said they will start fundraising earlier next year, but noted the detachment brought in about $660 this year.

“It was great. It was nice to do that for our first year,” he said. “We’re happy. The great thing about the fundraising is that it’s staying local.”

Cassidy Atkinson, Kyra Burrato and Hannah Drouillard represented General Amherst High School at the Polar Plunge.

The high school students all said they will return next year as well. They were able to raise $505.

“It’s a very deserving cause,” said Atkinson. “I think more people should do this next year.”

Atkinson added they became interested in jumping this year as a way to celebrate Buratto’s birthday but will continue to do it to support the cause.

Over $185,000 was raised in the first four years of the event with early estimates as to this year’s total being $40,000. There were roughly 165 jumpers this year.

Special Olympics hockey game sees police battle General Amherst



By Ron Giofu


Special Olympics Ontario will benefit from a charity hockey game that was held at the Libro Centre before the holidays.

General Amherst High School’s boys hockey team faced off against the Amherstburg Police Service team, though the latter contained officers from other departments as well as family members and supporters. The police team also featured the services of Amherstburg Admirals’ co-owner Wes Ewer and General Amherst principal Melissa DeBruyne.

Mike Cox, the long-time Amherstburg police officer who was also a major part in Special Olympics fundraising over the years, said with the exception of about a three or four year period after the former AMA Arena closed and the Libro Centre opened, the game has been going on for “as long as I can remember.”

The Amherstburg police team and the General Amherst boys hockey team gather for a group photo following their charity hockey game for Special Olympics Dec. 21.

Over the past number of decades, the police played the fire department, the Admirals, General Amherst and even the Detroit Red Wings alumni. He thanked his colleagues for helping out and taking over much of his former duties in organizing Special Olympics fundraisers including Nick D’Amore, Don Brown and Melissa Taylor.

One of the fond memories Cox had included the year two-time Olympic gold medalist Meghan Agosta played for the high school team.

“It’s not often you get to skate with someone who has a couple of gold medals,” said Cox. “She’s such a good person, just a fantastic person.”

Raising money for Special Olympics has long been a love for Cox, and is something he plans on continuing in his post-policing career.

“If we can raise a few dollars to support the cause, it’s something we love to do,” said Cox. “I’ll still be involved with Special Olympics and the Essex County Heroes.”

General Amherst boys hockey team coach Pat Garrett (left) presents an award to Mike Cox in recognition of Cox’s service to the school community.

Cox is hopeful the Special Olympics hockey game continues under the Windsor police banner.

“It’s the community. That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “The more contact with police only makes for a better community.”
General Amherst head coach Pat Garrett, who presented Cox with a plaque in recognition for his service over the years, said it was a great cause the team and school were happy to be part of.

“I think it was a fun day,” said Garrett, noting the work put in by fellow teacher Greg Scott’s fitness and recreational leadership class to make it happen.

Garrett noted DeBruyne was also supportive of the event, adding that honoring Cox “was very important.”

For more photos from the game, please visit our Facebook photo album.

Local rhythmic gymnast wins five medals at Special Olympics Canada 2018 Summer Games



By Ron Giofu


Another local athlete has brought home medals from the Special Olympics Canada 2018 Summer Games.

Celine LaBrecque, 21, brought home five bronze medals in rhythmic gymnastics from the competition held in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. It was the same games where Kyle Spearing competed and brought home a bronze medal in golf.

Celine won bronze in each of her routines – ball, hoop, ribbon and clubs – as well as a bronze medal overall.

“I was actually very proud because I didn’t think I was going to win anything,” said Celine. “It was a tough competition.”

Celine’s mother Cindy was one of the coaches for Team Ontario for the rhythmic gymnastics competition. She said Celine received new routines only two years ago.

Celine said she felt good coming off of the floor from all of her routines, adding that having her mother as one of the coaches made her feel better. Cindy said it was an honour to be chosen as one of the coaches.

“When I get to a competition, my mom just says to pretend it’s a practice,” said Celine.

Celine LaBrecque (left) of Amherstburg captured five bronze medals in rhythmic gymnastics at the recent Special Olympics Canada 2018 Summer Games. Her mother Cindy (right) was also a coach with the rhythmic gymnastics team.

Cindy said of the 15 rhythmic gymnasts from Ontario, they brought home 54 medals. She noted the games were at the “beautiful campus” of Saint Francis Xavier University and that the people of Antigonish showed tremendous hospitality to all Special Olympians.

“People would literally stop their cars and let us cross the street,” said Cindy, adding that others would give coaches money in grocery stores to buy treats for the athletes.

“It was a little overwhelming,” said Cindy. “I’ve never seen anything like that in the country.”

Celine said she practices twice per week, with many practices during the school year at Sandwich West Public School in LaSalle with others being at Heritage Park Alliance Church. As for her future plans, Celine said she will “go to competitions and see where I sit and go from there.”
Cindy added the next provincial qualifier is in 2019.

“She’s going to go back and see how she does and take it from there,” said Cindy.

Celine admitted she had been contemplating retirement from the sport but when she picks up the equipment, she realizes she is not ready for that yet.

“That feeling I get (upon picking up the equipment), I’m not ready to put it down yet,” said Celine.

Cindy added that both herself and father Bob are very proud of Celine’s latest accomplishments. Counting the most recent games, Celine estimates her overall medal total to be over 60.

“We were very proud to see how she pulled it together and succeeded,” said Cindy. “It was a great games.”

Cindy added that Celine has benefited greatly from Special Olympics.

“It’s been a positive influence on Celine’s life,” said Cindy. “This is the place where she grew friendships. This is the place where she grew a social life. It’s really helped her life.”

Celine, who starts the CICE program at St. Clair College this week, added she is grateful to all who have helped her along the way.

“I would like to thank all the coaches and my mom,” she said.


Local Special Olympian returns from national games with a bronze



By Ron Giofu


A local golfer went to the Special Olympics Canadian National Games in Antigonish, Nova Scotia and came home with a bronze medal.

Kyle Spearing captured third place in division three of the golf competition after shooting 52, 54 and 55 in the three nine-hole rounds at the tournament. His scores in the first two rounds put him in division three and he finished 16th overall.

“It was a good experience,” said Spearing. “It was my first time at nationals.”

Spearing said “I really liked the course” and further stated that he felt good about finishing third. He added he was satisfied with how he did.

Kyle Spearing won a bronze medal at the recent Special Olympics national golf tournament.

“It was a good time and good experience,” he said. “I got to meet new friends.”

Spearing added he also got to see friends he met at other Special Olympics tournaments.

While he waits to see if he is chosen for the national team, Spearing practices almost every day at Sutton Creek Golf Club where he is coached by Cory LaJeunesse. LaJeunesse said it was the 50th anniversary for Special Olympics and that the experience “was the most special thing I’ve ever been a part of.”

LaJeunesse said he was pleased with how Spearing did.

“He did amazing overall,” he said. “There’s some good talent out there.”

They now wait to see if Spearing makes the national team and Spearing said he’s taking it “day by day.” LaJeunesse said if he doesn’t make it, it’s another four-year process to try again but they are going to keep working at it. He added that Spearing will have to continue to focus and “grind a little harder” as he works towards his goal.

LaJeunesse added that the Special Olympics was made even more special thanks to the people of Antigonish, who were very friendly and supportive to the athletes.

Kyle Spearing strikes gold at Special Olympics golf tournament



By Ron Giofu


A local Special Olympian has struck gold on the links.

Kyle Spearing, 25, won the gold medal at the Special Olympics North America (SONA) golf tournament. He competed in the level five, division six category.

The tournament was held June 26-28 in Seattle.

Spearing, who shot 103, 99 and 91 in his three rounds, said “it was really cool” to come home with the gold medal in his division. He attributed his improvements over the three days to not being as nervous as the tournament went on.

Spearing said he wasn’t sure how he placed until organizers called the winners up and arranged them according to how they finished.

“They put is in place and I sat in the first place chair,” said Spearing.

This was his biggest finish yet at a SONA golf tournament, as Spearing also has two silver medals to his credit. He said he has been golfing for about ten years, the last six of which have been with coach Cory Lajeunesse at Sutton Creek Golf Club.

Spearing said he golfs multiple times per week. He said he is at Sutton Creek “mostly every day, when I’m not working, I’m here practicing and playing.”

“He’s playing four times per week, maybe five,” said Lajeunesse. “He gets his fair share of golf in.”

Spearing added his parents made the trip to Seattle, which made the experience even more special.

Lajeunesse said the SONA golf tournament is the biggest championships between the United States and Canada outside of the world championships.

Kyle Spearing won gold at the recent SONA golf tournament in Seattle, Washington. He competed in level five, division six.

Kyle Spearing won gold at the recent SONA golf tournament in Seattle, Washington. He competed in level five, division six.

“It was unique this year because they didn’t pair you with players in your division,” Lajeunesse stated. “This year, they split us up.”

Lajeunesse knew that Spearing was down two shots heading into the final round. The eventual silver medalist shot 99, 101 and 95 over the three days. He said they learned about five minutes before the actual medal presentation that Spearing won the gold.

“I think he got more comfortable with the course,” Lajeunesse said of the improvement over the three days.

Lajeunesse worked with Spearing each day on what he had to do and how he had to prepare.

“In the end, it all comes down to the short game,” said Lajeunesse.

They won’t have too much time to rest on laurels, as Spearing will be golfing in the Special Olympics provincial tournament in Mississauga this weekend. If he does well there, he could qualify for the national golf tournament which will be next year.